Heading into last weekend, the Big Ten looked like it was on life support. The conference had struggled immensely against quality competition and looked like it could be headed for a year with three or four NCAA Tournament bids. And with time running out, it was now or never for the Big Ten.
Fortunately, the Big Ten scored a multitude of major wins over the weekend. In fact, the Big Ten went 9-2 overall on Saturday and Sunday and scored two wins over ranked opponents. The league is still a long way off its preseason hopes, but things are looking much better than they did a few days ago.
And with all those games in the books, let’s look at this week’s power rankings.
Big Ten Week Six Power Rankings
#1 - Michigan State Spartans (--)
The Spartans only had one game this week and played it on a neutral court against Oakland. While the Golden Grizzlies are far from an elite opponent, the in-state foe put up quite a fight against Michigan State. This game is played relatively often and Oakland rarely goes down easily. The same was true on Saturday.
Nonetheless, even if the game was closer than Spartan fans would have liked, with the win, Michigan State now sits at 10-1 overall and enters the easiest portion of its schedule. Michigan State has 99 percent (or better) odds to win each of its next four games and the spread for most of the games will be around 30 points. It would take something monumental for the Spartans to be seriously pushed before January.
This week, Michigan State will get home games against Houston Baptist on Monday and Long Beach State on Thursday. Both should be easy wins.
#2 - Purdue Boilermakers (--)
The Boilermakers may have had a rough performance in the Bahamas in November, but the team has quietly been building quite a resume over the last month. And that continued last week, as Purdue added a huge neutral court win over Butler on Saturday in the annual Crossroads Classic. Despite a late push by the Bulldogs, it was a dominant win for Purdue and the team’s sixth win against a top 60 team on KenPom this year.
With Saturday’s win, Purdue now sits at 11-2 overall heading into a relatively manageable upcoming slate. The Boilermakers get four straight home games where the team will have 92 percent odds to win (or better) in each matchup. Barring something surprising, Purdue should head into Ann Arbor on January 9th at 15-2.
Things figure to be pretty easy for Purdue this week, as the team gets Tennessee State at home on Thursday for its lone matchup before Christmas.
#3 - Maryland Terrapins (--)
The Terrapins only had one game last week and it came at home on Thursday against Catholic. It was a one-sided affair where Maryland cruised to a 76-59 victory. Fans learned little from the game, but the Terps did improve to 10-3 with the win.
Maryland only gets one game this week and it comes at home on Thursday against Fairleigh Dickinson. This should be another comfortable win for Maryland, as KenPom projects the team to grab an 89-66 win.
#4 - Ohio State Buckeyes (+1)
The Buckeyes only had one game this week, but coasted to an easy win over Appalachian State at home on Saturday. The win pushed Ohio State to 9-3 overall, with all of the team’s losses coming against quality competition.
However, things will get far more challenging this week as Ohio State gets The Citadel at home on Tuesday and faces North Carolina on a neutral court on Saturday. An upset win over the Tar Heels would be a massive resume boost for Ohio State.
#5 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (-1)
The Golden Gophers only had one game this week and it came at home against an underwhelming Drake team on Monday night. Unfortunately, that contest proved to be too close for comfort for Minnesota. The team ended up pulling out a victory, but it was a narrow one over a Drake team that is 5-6 so far on the season.
Minnesota’s problems largely remained unchanged in that game. The Gophers continue to rely on an ineffective bench and the team’s shooting has been frustrating. There’s simply no reason a program with as much talent and experience as Minnesota should have five (!!!) players finish with 32+ minutes against Drake at home. Over the next few weeks, Richard Pitino’s top priority needs to be developing a sixth man.
This week, Minnesota will get Oral Roberts at home on Thursday and Florida Atlantic at home on Saturday. Both of these games should be easy wins for the Gophers. However, the game against Drake looked manageable on paper as well. Minnesota absolutely cannot afford to lose either of these games.
#6 - Michigan Wolverines (+1)
The Wolverines had a great week, as the team scored a huge road win against Texas on Tuesday and blew out Detroit on a neutral court on Saturday. The two wins pushed Michigan to 10-3 overall with a few weeks to get in shape before league play.
While Michigan is only seventh in our power rankings this week, how the Wolverines perform in the months to come will have a tremendous impact on the Big Ten’s postseason implications. Michigan is in good RPI shape at the moment and the league desperately needs another team to emerge. The Wolverines could be that team.
This week, Michigan will get Alabama A&M at home on Thursday. This figures to be an easy win for the Wolverines and a chance to get some young players minutes.
#7 - Penn State Nittany Lions (-1)
The Nittany Lions were another team with a relatively light schedule this week. The team only had one game and got an easy road win over George Mason on Sunday. A road win is always a positive, but the Patriots are currently ranked 220th on KenPom, so that likely won’t be a huge resume boost for Penn State by season’s end.
Penn State will now get three easy games in a row before entering Big Ten play. That slate starts this week with Binghamton at home on Tuesday and Rider at home on Friday. Penn State is a substantial favorite in both games and should cruise.
#8 - Northwestern Wildcats (--)
The Wildcats had three games last week and scored three solid wins. The first two were blowout wins over Chicago State and Valparaiso at home and the last was a road win over a competent DePaul team. The three wins pushed Northwestern to 8-4 overall.
As we roll into late December, this is a crucial stretch for Northwestern. While last week should do a lot for the team’s resume, Northwestern still desperately needs a marquee win to be in good shape entering the heart of conference play. After all, with a down Big Ten, getting quality wins is going to be even more difficult this season. As such, taking advantage of these last few non-conference games will be huge.
Fortunately, Northwestern will get two opportunities to add to its win total this week with Lewis at home on Tuesday and Oklahoma on the road on Friday. The Sooners are regarded by many as a top 25 team. If Northwestern could score two wins this week, it would be massive for the team’s postseason hopes.
#9 - Indiana Hoosiers (--)
The Hoosiers only had one game this week, but scored a massive upset win over Notre Dame on Saturday. It was the team’s first marquee win of the season and its first under head coach Archie Miller. The win pushed Indiana to 6-5 overall, with four of its losses coming to top 40 teams and three on the road.
Indiana won’t get any marquee opportunities this week, but the team will get a chance to build some momentum with Fort Wayne at home on Monday and Tennessee Tech at home on Thursday. Showing some consistency after a big win would be a great sign for the program’s future with Miller at the helm.
#10 - Rutgers Scarlet Knights (+3)
The Scarlet Knights finally did it. After getting so close on so many occasions since Steve Pikiell took over last season, Rutgers finally scored a marquee win. The team beat Fordham on Tuesday at home and then upset Seton Hall at home on Saturday. The two wins pushed Rutgers to 10-3 overall.
While the weak schedule has played a factor in the team’s fast start, there’s also no denying that Rutgers has improved. Beating Seton Hall may have gotten national attention, but the rise has been going for some time. Rutgers is now up to 90th on KenPom and isn’t showing any reason to believe it won’t go up from there.
Rutgers will now move on to face Stony Brook at home on Friday. The game will offer the team an opportunity to score another top 200 win.
#11 - Nebraska Cornhuskers (--)
The Huskers may have lost its only game last week, but the team showed massive fight in a close loss to Kansas on Saturday night. The loss dropped Nebraska to 7-5 overall, with all of its losses coming against quality competition. Going forward, the question will be how Nebraska performs against middle-tier competition.
Nebraska won’t answer that question this week with UTSA at home on Wednesday and Delaware State at home on Saturday. Neither opponent is all that great. Sweeping these two games will be crucial for the team’s postseason goals.
#12 - Wisconsin Badgers (-2)
The Badgers only had one game last week and it came at home against Western Kentucky on Wednesday night. While Western Kentucky may be underrated nationally, Wisconsin narrowly avoided an upset. In fact, the game very likely could have gone the other way thanks to some questionable officiating.
Wisconsin now sits at 5-7 overall and gets Green Bay at home on Saturday this week. At this point, there’s not much left to analyze. Wisconsin’s postseason hopes are now on life support. Every manageable game is a virtual must win.
#13 - Illinois Fighting Illini (-1)
The Illini have been a bit of a mixed bag this season. While the team seems to be playing better than many predicted before the season, that play hasn’t translated to wins against quality opponents. That showed up this week as Illinois beat Longwood, but fell on a neutral court against New Mexico State on Saturday.
Illinois will now get Missouri on a neutral court on Saturday. This is the team’s final opportunity to get a marquee win before entering the heart of Big Ten play.
#14 - Iowa Hawkeyes (--)
The Hawkeyes only had one game last week and scored a comfortable win over Drake on a neutral court. While Iowa sits at 6-6 overall, it has yet to beat a top 100 team on KenPom this season. Iowa has simply beat underwhelming opponents to date.
Iowa will now get South Utah at home on Tuesday and Colorado on a neutral court on Friday. Two wins would be a nice boost for the team. However, it’s hard to imagine perception on Iowa changing much as a result of either of those games.